This article was originally published on GoErie.com by Tim Hahn on Feb 5, 2018
Pennsylvania State Police troopers who shot at a 71-year-old Summit Township man after troopers said the man fired an assault rifle at them in early January were justified in their use of deadly force, Erie County District Attorney Jack Daneri announced Monday.
Anthony L. LaCastro Jr., 71, was shot once in the abdomen as three state police troopers returned fire after LaCastro fired shots from an AR-15 assault rifle in the direction of a state police corporal and four troopers on the early morning of Jan. 7, according to investigators. The officers were responding to LaCastro’s Dorn Road residence on a report of a domestic incident involving gunfire when investigators said they encountered LaCastro outside of the residence.
No one else was injured in the shooting. LaCastro was treated at UPMC Hamot and is in the Erie County Prison without bond on charges including five counts of attempted homicide.
LaCastro is scheduled to appear in court for his preliminary hearing on March 27.
Daneri said in a statement released early Monday afternoon that the use of force by the troopers was justified and appropriate under the circumstances. The officers encountered LaCastro as he was standing near his garage, holding the AR-15; he ignored commands to drop the weapon; and he raised the rifle and began shooting in their direction, Daneri said in the release. Investigators stated previously that the officers were about 50 yards away from LaCastro when he fired multiple shots at them.
Daneri said he made his decision after reviewing the reports of state police Cpl. Lee Bunyak of the state police station in Franklin and Erie County Detective Sgt. Joseph Spusta, who did “parallel and independent” investigations into the shooting. He said he was also provided evidence including 911 recordings and the recordings of statements made by the officers involved; by LaCastro; by his wife, Ruthann LaCastro; and by neighbors and witnesses.
The four troopers and the corporal are still on administrative leave pending an administrative investigation into the incident, Capt. James Basinger, commander of state police Troop E in Lawrence Park Township, said Monday afternoon.
According to information in the affidavit of probable cause that Bunyak filed with the criminal complaint against LaCastro, the officers went to the LaCastros’ residence after Ruthann LaCastro called 911 and said her husband had repeatedly fired a handgun inside the garage and was outside with a rifle. She told investigators she was able to take the handgun from her husband, but he went inside the house, grabbed the AR-15 from his gun safe and loaded it.
Ruthann LaCastro told investigators that LaCastro then said “that he was going to shoot anyone, to include the police, that came to the house,” according to the affidavit.